The Evolution of Trump Campaign Responses to Melania Trump’s Plagiarized Speech

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A Trump Organization staffer took the blame on Wednesday for plagiarizing a portion of Melania Trump’s Republican National Convention speech, following observations that part of her speech borrowed heavily from First Lady Michelle Obama’s 2008 address.

Donald Trump, campaign officials and his surrogates initially praised the speech, refuted plagiarism claims and argued that it had included words and phrases commonly used by many people, not just Obama—but their response morphed as the team played damage control over a day and a half.

Here are the different ways Trump and his team have responded to the speech since Monday night:

“Her speech and demeanor were absolutely incredible”
Donald Trump immediately praised his wife’s speech in the early hours of Tuesday morning, as observations about its similarities to Obama’s speech began to spread.

“It was truly an honor to introduce my wife, Melania. Her speech and demeanor were absolutely incredible. Very proud!” he wrote on Twitter.

“Melania’s team of writers took notes on her life’s inspirations”
The first official statement from the campaign emphasized that the speech was inspired by Melania Trump’s own thoughts and experiences.

“In writing her beautiful speech, Melania’s team of writers took notes on her life’s inspirations, and in some instances included fragments that reflected her own thinking. Melania’s immigrant experience and love for America shone through in her speech, which made it such a success,” said Jason Miller, senior communications adviser for the Trump campaign.

“They’re not words that are unique words”
Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s campaign manager, defended Melania Trump and accused Hillary Clinton of making it an issue, while speaking in interviews and at a press conference on Tuesday morning. “They’re not words that are unique words,” he told TIME.

“There’s a political tint to this whole issue,” he then said at a press conference. “It’s just another example, as far as we’re concerned, that when Hillary Clinton is threatened by a female, the first thing she does is try to destroy the person.” He argued that while the words were common, they were personal to Melania.

“We don’t believe there’s anything in that speech that doesn’t reflect her thinking,” he said. “We’re comfortable that the words that she used are words that are personal to her.”

“This concept that Michelle Obama invented the English language is absurd”
Katrina Pierson, a spokeswoman for Donald Trump’s campaign, praised the speech and said Melania Trump had simply spoken about values that are shared by many people.

“These are values—Republican values, by the way—of hard work, determination, family values, dedication and respect, and that’s Melania Trump,” Pierson said in an interview with the Hill. “This concept that Michelle Obama invented the English language is absurd.”

Read more: Watch Republicans in Cleveland Talk About Melania Trump’s Speech

“Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony — she said something similar too”
Sean Spicer, communications director for the Republican National Committee, adamantly refuted plagiarism accusations on Tuesday afternoon, quoting Kid Rock, John Legend, Akon and Twilight Sparkle for saying similar things about dreaming and working hard.

“Melania Trump said, ‘the strength of your dreams and willingness to work from them.’ Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony said, ‘This is your dream, anything you can do in your dreams, you can do now,’” Spicer told CNN.

He later doubled down on that point: “Look, I just quoted Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony — she said something similar too, so did Mrs. Obama plagiarize her? I would never say that, but these are common phrases that were used over and over again.”

“All press is good press!”
Donald Trump responded again on Wednesday morning, making the unlikely claim that his wife’s speech had received “more publicity than any in the history of politics.”

“Good news is Melania’s speech got more publicity than any in the history of politics especially if you believe that all press is good press!” he wrote on Twitter, while also criticizing the press for its attention to the speech.

“The media is spending more time doing a forensic analysis of Melania’s speech than the FBI spent on Hillary’s emails,” he said.

“This was my mistake”
On Wednesday afternoon, Meredith McIver, a writer for the Trump Organization, said it was her “mistake” and admitted the speech included “some of the phrasing” that Melania Trump had relayed to her from Obama’s 2008 address.

“A person she has always liked is Michelle Obama. Over the phone, she read me some passages from Mrs. Obama’s speech as examples. I wrote them down and later included some of the phrasing in the draft that ultimately became the final speech,” she said in a statement. “I did not check Mrs. Obama’s speeches. This was my mistake, and I feel terrible for the chaos I have caused Melania and Trumps, as well as to Mrs. Obama. No harm was meant.”

“We all make mistakes”
In an interview with ABC News on Wednesday night, Donald Trump defended McIver and called her a “very good person” whom he’s worked with on books for years.

“She made a mistake, and you know, people make mistakes,” he said. “We all make mistakes.”

Trump said McIver came to him this week to explain what happened. Asked how Melania Trump has handled the controversy, Donald Trump said “she handles it well” and said a “cloud has lifted off her” since McIver’s statement.

“She’s a strong woman. She’s a good woman,” he said. “I thought she made an incredible speech. I thought she made a beautiful speech.”

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